Governments should better protect the right to family life of refugees and persons with a subsidiary protection status

Strasbourg 12/05/2017
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Families have the right to live together. Regrettably, this principle is not the reality for many refugees in Europe who face restrictive family reunification policies. As many European countries celebrate Mother’s Day today, we should not forget all refugee mothers who remain separated from members of their families due to such policies. I therefore call on governments to better protect the right to family life of refugees and persons with a subsidiary protection status.

Many European countries have made family reunification more difficult through measures aimed at ‘managing migration’. For example, they have instituted disproportionately long mandatory waiting periods before recognised refugees can apply for their families to join them. Persons who are not recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention, but rather receive subsidiary protection because they cannot be returned without risk of inhuman treatment, have increasingly been excluded from family reunification schemes, or face much more stringent conditions. European countries also continue to apply very restrictive definitions of who can be considered a family member for the purpose of reunification, which may exclude adult children or grandparents who are dependent on the refugee staying in Europe.

Such restrictive family reunification policies cause immense hardship for both refugees in Europe, and their families who are left behind. They must be reviewed. Next month I will publish an extensive set of recommendations aimed at helping governments adopt a more humane and human rights oriented policy on family reunification.